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I Am a Woman,too: Feminism to the Black Woman

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Written by Tammy Carter

In history, women have always struggled to gain equality, respect, and the same rights as men. Women had had to endure years of sexism and struggle to get to where we are today. The struggle was even more difficult for women of color because not only were they dealing with issues of sexism, but also racism. Many movements have helped black women during the past centuries to overcome sexism, racism, and adversities that were set against them. History tells us that movements such as the Feminist Movement helped empower all women, but this fact is not totally true. In this paper, I will discuss feminism, the movements, and its “minimal” affects on black women.

The word feminism comes from the word fйminisme, which was thought of by Utopian socialist Charles Fourier. He argued that the extension of women's rights was the general principle of all social progress. This later led to the organized movement that dated from the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 (See Exhibit:3). There is no one definition of feminism. It is a view that women are inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Feminism can be described as the following:

a range of contemporary theoretical perspectives, including political, sociological, legal, psychoanalytic, literary, philosophical, in which women's experiences are examined in relation to actual and perceived differences between the power and status of men and women;

A social justice movement in which issues of particular importance for women, such as domestic violence, pay equity, globalization, are analyzed, understood, and addressed from feminist perspectives (familypride.uwo.ca/glossary/glossary5.html).

Feminism became a large movement in the 19th century when people increasingly felt that women were being treated unfairly. Much of feminism and feminist theory represented issues concerning Western, middle-class white women, but it claimed to represent “all women”. Feminism addressed most issues that related to women, but it didn’t really address the issues and needs of Black women. Many black women saw that their needs were being overlooked, but only some took a stand on the issues.

In the early 1800s, most Black women were enslaved, but free Black women participated in the abolitionist cause. Some women like Maria Stewart, Frances E. W. Harper, and Sojourner Truth, spoke out to others about Black women's rights. They were some of the female leaders that put the Black Women’s Rights movement into effect. Sojourner Truth was very active in the women's rights movement, and her often quoted 1851 "Ain't I a Woman" speech, nevertheless illustrates how gender oppression has unique repercussions for Black women living under a racist, economically “exploitive” system. Bell Hooks later wrote a book referring to Truth’s speech titled, Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism (See Exhibit: 1). In this book, Bell Hooks examines the effects of racism and sexism on black women, the civil rights movement, and feminist movements from suffrage to the 1970s. She argues that the junction of sexism and racism during slavery contributed to black women having the lowest status and worst conditions of any group in American society. According to Hooks, Black women were stereotyped as promiscuous and immoral. Furthermore, those stereotypes that were set during slavery still affect black women today. She also argues that slavery allowed white society to stereotype white women as “the pure goddess virgin” and move black women to the “seductive whore stereotype” formerly placed on all women. This has allowed the justification of the devaluation of black femininity and rape, which continues to this date.

Later on in the years, the Black Feminist Movement was started to try to eliminate these ethnic notions that oppressed black women. In an effort to meet the needs of black women in the U.S., who felt they were racially oppressed in the Women's Movement and sexually oppressed in the Black Liberation Movement, the Black Feminist Movement was formed. “The purpose of the movement was to develop theory which could adequately address the way race, gender, and class were interconnected in their lives and to take action to stop racist, sexist, and classist discrimination”(But Some of Us Are Brave: A History of Black

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